It has been not too long since Ram Kamal Mukherjee made a transition from being a journalist to a filmmaker but he has already produced and directed a bunch of short films that have been received very well. ‘Rickshawala’, a short produced and directed by him and ‘Kalabai From Byculla’, another short produced by him, will stream on the newly launched digital streaming platform Biiggbang Amusement very soon. In this interview, he talks about his journey from being a very successful journalist to a filmmaker, the kind of stories he wants to tell, the role wife Sarbani Mukherjee played in his journey, upcoming projects and more.
‘Kalabai From Byculla’ is a mythological film with a supernatural element to it. For a short film, this seems to be quite an ambitious premise.
Yes, it is an ambitious project. When I am making a film, I don’t think whether I am making a short film or a feature length film. My whole approach to telling a story is always like a feature film. The number of crew or the element of grandeur associated with it is pretty high. Unless and until we are ambitious, we will not be able to do something that is different from the monotonous storytelling that we have been witnessing of late. We have to be braver and push the envelope while creating new content.
Sharib Hashmi and Shruti Bapna play the lead roles in ‘Kalabai From Byculla’. How was the experience of working with them?
I have known Sharib since his ‘Filmistaan’ days. He is an amazing actor and a great human being. I wanted him to be a part of the film because of his simplicity. I am grateful to him for saying yes to this project. It is very important for the audience to relate to the actor and the character he is playing. Sharib has that quality. Same is the case with Shruti and all the other actors in the film. I had really liked the script and when I saw the final product, I fell in love with the way Saumitra had directed the film. I am thankful to the team at Biiggbang Amusement that they are coming up with a platform that caters to this kind of cinema. They are not putting a bracket to the kind of content you can make and don’t expect you to have stars in your project. They are focused on creating and supporting out-of-the-box content.
‘Rickshawala’ is the first short film you have made in Bengali. The film has been received well at festivals. You grew up in North Kolkata (then Calcutta) where you saw a lot of rickshaw pullers going about their duties every day. Was it a special film for you as it was based on your own experiences?
A bit of my own personal experience has definitely been there in ‘Rickshawala’. It received a lot of acclaim and managed to win a lot of awards too. Whenever I have received an award for this film, I felt very emotional about my own country and state. I feel that I have been able to tell a story which is about my own country and one that the global audience has been able to relate to. Cinema is a language I believe has to be universal. The language is just the demand of the script. I am not making cinema for a particular audience or region. I see myself as an Indian filmmaker who is trying to tell stories that can resonate with a global audience.
You had stated in an interview that the content on OTT platform is all about bloodbath and terror. The films that you have made are very different. How do you feel now that these films, which were appreciated in the festivals, will be watched by a wider audience?
I am very happy! It’s very important for these films to reach out to a wider audience. The festival audience is huge. Accolades and awards are important but I also wanted the audience in my country to watch these films. Biiggbang Amusement is a family-entertainment platform. The audience that will be coming to Biiggbang Amusement will be family audience. I am really excited to see how they respond to these films. As far as my statement is concerned, then yes, I did say that. At that point, I was seeing only content hat had images of murders, rapes, and people being burnt alive. I was not sure where we were going with that kind of content. There is no harm in showing the negative part of the society but we should have a balance of different kind of content. Just because you have a certain kind of freedom, you shouldn’t misuse it. One of my favourite web shows has been ‘Delhi Crime’. It spoke about the gruesome incident but there was not a single scene that depicted it. If your story has a cold-blooded murder in it, you don’t necessarily have to show it visually. Filmmakers need to be more creative in this regard.
Has the transition from journalism to filmmaking been smooth?
No, it was very tough. When you want to start out as a filmmaker, the whole approach of actors and studios towards you change. They ask you what you have made and why should they put their money into something that you want to make. I had to make my own film first. I made ‘Cakewalk’ which was received very well. After that, things became a little easy but it wasn’t a smooth ride. Switching your profession is never an easy thing to do. The film business is a mixture of creative, technical, financial and marketing choices. I am grateful to all those people who closed their doors on me. That gave me the motivation and the courage to keep moving forward. I am happy and grateful that the audience is liking my films.
Your wife Sarbani Mukherjee has been the producer on all your films. What has been her contribution to your journey as a filmmaker?
Sarbani is a very important part of Assorted Motion Pictures. She is the one who pushed me to do a lot of important things in life. I had a bunch of short stories but wasn’t confident about getting them published. She approached a publisher and because of her conviction and belief, the stories got published as a book. If not for her, I probably would never have become a filmmaker. I choose different mediums to tell my stories. Whenever I want to tell the story of a superstar, I will write a biography on him. When I want to tell a story through visuals, I will make a film. You need support from your family to venture into different things. My wife has been a pillar of support throughout my journey.
You have written biographies on Hema Malini and Sanjay Dutt. Is there a plan to write another one in the near future?
I am just about to finish another one. Since I have signed an NDA, I cannot reveal anything about it at the moment. Hopefully, by next month there will be an official announcement.
Is there a plan to make a feature film as well?
My first feature length film would be a Bengali film called ‘Binodini’ which is based on the life of Bengali actress Binodini Dasi. I was supposed to start the film earlier this year but because of the lockdown, everything got delayed. My next project is a 27-minute film called ‘Broken Frames. It features Rohit Roy and Ritabhari Chakraborty in the lead roles. It’s based on one of the short stories from my book. There are many other projects in the pipeline. I hope to tell stories that would touch your heart and stay with you forever.